Top 10 Tips for Effective Communication

You’ve done the work, packaged the findings, laid out the business case, and developed the ask and recommendations. Whether your software of choice is PowerPoint, Keynote or SlideRocket, you’ve turned your presentation into a work of art. Crafting and packaging your message is very important but the rubber meets the road when you communicate it.


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In 1967, UCLA sociolinguist  Dr. Albert Mehabrian published papers based on two studies: “Decoding of Inconsistent Communications” and “Inference of Attitudes from Nonverbal Communication in Two Channels”.

In his studies, Mehabrian comes to two conclusions. The first one being that there are basically three elements in any face-to-face communication:

    • Words,
    • Tone of voice, and
    • Nonverbal behavior.

They are often abbreviated as the “3 Vs” for Verbal, Vocal & Visual.

I’m so thrilled to be here …

The second conclusion emphasizes that the non-verbal elements are particularly important for communicating feelings and attitude, especially when they are at odds such that if words disagree with the tone of voice and nonverbal behavior, people tend to believe the tonality and nonverbal behavior.

Mehrabian combined the results of the two studies to obtain the ratio 7:38:55 which is known as the 7%-38%-55% rule.

The rule argues that overall credibility in communication is distributed as follows:

  • 55% of meaning comes from presentation,
  • 38% of meaning comes from tonality, and
  • 7% of meaning comes from the words themselves.

Building on the 3 Vs in Mehrabian’s 7%-38%-55% rule, I’ve included an introductory piece and packaged the “Top 10 Tips for Effective Communication”.

Read the Tea Leaves: Catch the Cues

The art of tasseomancy (reading the tea leaves) involves interpreting patterns that loose tea leaves leave in a cup or in a saucer. Some believe that the pattern made by the leaves can be interpreted to tell the future of the one who drank the tea.

In preparation for your presentation, you should try to “read the virtual teas leaves” so that you’ll  be able to catch the cues and maximize your chances of success. I summarized them as follows:

1. Understand The Rules Of The Game

2. Dress For Context

3. Know Your Audience

These three tips will help you set the stage for your presentation.

Visual: Body Language

Jerry Weissman is undoubtedly one of the best corporate presentation coaches. In one of his blog posts, he explains the notion of the “body wrap” which is a natural anxiety response and the opposite of owning your own space.

This is not Jerry Weissman!

4. Self Awareness

5. Own Your Own Space

6. Demonstrate Competence With Confidence

Verbal: Voice

I recently enjoyed the audiobook version of Tina Fay’s bestselling book Bossypants. Her book includes business advice through the use of humorous examples. In one such example, she explains that in order to convey confidence, you must not finish every sentence as though it had a question mark.

7. Project With Passion & Volume

8. Use Downward Inflections

Upward Inflection

When you use downward inflections, you essentially get rid of that implied question mark. Amy Gonzalez, Director of Women Unlimited’s Western Region thought me a technic that I’ll never forget and that works perfectly well for mastering downward inflections. She recommends that you silently say <damn it> to yourself at the end of each statement.

For example:

  • My name is Lina Arseneault <damn it>,
  • I’m here to present a business case <damn it>,
  • You’ll walk away from this meeting thinking that xxx is the best solution <damn it>

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Not only will it eliminate the diminishing silent question mark, it will also provide much needed pauses allowing you to breath (and possibly prevent you from fainting).

Contrast that with:

  • I’m Lina Arseneault? (upward inflection with an implied question mark):

Implication: audience is wondering if you’re actually even sure about that?

Words: Message

9. Focus On How You Say It

10. Eliminate Qualifiers, Tags & Diminishing Words

In this Harvard Business Review blog post, Jerry Weissman discusses the importance of avoiding filler language in presentations.  Filler words are short phrases or questions that have been used and abused to the point of diminishing your connection with your audience.  Examples include:

      • Does that make sense?
      • Like I said …
      • You know … 


Watch the YouTube video of Top 10 Tips For Effective Communications.

To communicate the message of your presentation with confidence and competence, remember to read the virtual tea leaves and mind the 3 Vs” of communications:  verbal, vocal & visual.


Would you add anything to the list of tips?



Additional Information:

Download the Slideshare companion presentation.

Are You Preparing An Important Presentation? Be Sure To Avoid Filler Frankenspeak

Read a summary of Jerry Weissman’s Power Presenter

Lina Arseneault is Millennial at heart. Follow her on Twitter.

Cafélina uses Royalty free images.

6 thoughts on “Top 10 Tips for Effective Communication

  1. Good advice but what about international elements? Some Australian accents make almost all sentences sound like questions by using upward lilt at the end of sentences. Many British speakers add a lot of parenthetical and self-deprecating ‘fillers.’ How to handle such ‘accents’ and styles?

    1. Hi Maria, Thank you for your comment and point of view. I think that up-speak (and the necessity to eliminate it) transcends accents. In my case, I can’t speak fast in English (even if I wanted to) and this has served me well when presenting – especially to non-native English speakers.

  2. Good recommendations Lina. To follow up on the comments, I think most people are drawn to Australian accents and yes many do not like the American accent. I noticed it when I moved back to US from Australia. The key is to be engaging an targeted to your audience,

    1. Hi Michele, Merci for your comments. I agree that the key is to be targeted and engaging to your audience. As Jerry Weissman would say, it’s all about “what’s in it for them“, and not “what’s in it for you”!

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